Yom Kippur, the “Day of Atonement,” is said to be the holiest day of the Jewish year. Falling ten days after Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), Yom Kippur is the culmination of the Jewish High Holy Days and begins this year at sunset on Tuesday, September 25, and ends 25 hours later, after nightfall on Wednesday, September 26.
The period is one of solemnity, fasting, abstaining from work, and praying at special synagogue or temple services.
Beginning an hour before sunset, when Yom Kippur commences, and ending an hour after nightfall, when Yom Kippur concludes, strict observance of the Torah commands that no food or liquid be consumed. The focus should not be on physical needs but rather spiritual ones. Some exceptions are made, however, for the elderly, the infirmed, pregnant women, new mothers, or if there are other major health concerns.
Repentance (Teshuvah) and Charity (Tzedakah)
According to Jewish tradition, on Rosh Hashanah, each person’s fate for the coming year is inscribed by God into the Book of Life, and that the final verdict is sealed on Yom Kippur. During the ten days leading to Yom Kippur, Jews are encouraged to seek forgiveness from anyone they may have offended during the year, to give charity, and to pray. This period of repentance, generosity, and introspection is meaningful and important to Jews all over the world.
A special prayer book called a Machzor is used for all the unique prayers chanted on Yom Kippur. These include Kol Nidrei, an Aramaic plea for God to forgive any vows made that were not honored during the past year. It is recited at the start of the holiday, and Al Chet, a listing of and a request for forgiveness for many types of transgressions one may have committed throughout the year is also chanted. Services are held during most of the day until Neilah, the closing prayer, at which time a shofar (ram’s horn) blasts and signals the end of Yom Kippur.
You can honor the traditions and celebration of this Holy Day by sending a Yom Kippur card to someone who will surely appreciate your thoughtful gesture and respectful good wishes.